Editorial: Sounds like a job for the Legislature

Published 8:55 am Monday, June 14, 2010

That’s what the county should be considering in the wake of its decision not to pursue an adverse ruling it received from the state Supreme Court.

On May 14, the state’s highest court ruled that the county has to pay for private attorneys to represent parents on some child protection cases. The public defenders office used to provide those services, but stopped a year ago because of caseload and budget constraints. After that, a Third District judge assigned a private attorney to a Rice County mother’s case and ordered the county to pay for his services. The county refused.

The county’s motives were noble. The public defender is funded by the state and, once the state stopped offering representation, the state should’ve provided either funds or alternative representation in these cases. But it did neither, forcing another unfunded mandate onto county taxpayers’ shoulders.

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But we’ve said before and we’ll say again, no matter how noble the cause, the way to fight this battle was not in the courts. The county lost on the local level, the appeals level and now at the supreme court level. It’s time to give up the judiciary as the branch at which to attack this problem.

It’s a legislative issue and that’s where the battle needs to be taken. Most governments employ the use of a lobbyist, even if it’s part of that government’s dues to an organization like the state counties association.

Rice County needs to use that lobbyist to press the state Legislature for a solution to this problem. Other counties will join in; this is not just a Rice County issue.

Solving it at the capitol makes the solution more permanent and less expensive than doing it in the courts, anyway.

— Faribault Daily News, June 3